The Edmonton Wards
Your guide to understanding Edmonton's new ward names, boundaries, and those running to represent them...
Edmonton's Indigenous Ward Naming Committee:
There's a lot happening in Edmonton politics during 2021, from multiple city councillors and the Mayor himself announcing that they would not be running for reelection to the dozens of locals who are tossing their hats in the ring to be a part of City Council this October. But that's not all that's new for Edmonton in 2021. Our 12 newly amended wards will all be officially renamed, which will come into effect on Monday, October 18, the date of the next general election.
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Instead of numbered wards, Edmonton's City Council voted to have the ward titles renamed to honour sacred places and preserve Indigenous history. A committee made up of 17 women representing First Nations, Inuit, and Métis came up with the new names last summer, and the bylaw approving the new ward boundaries and Indigenous ward names was passed by Council on December 7, 2020.
Now, to be honest, some of the new ward names are not easy to pronounce for some people, while others may be confused by the new boundaries or who's running for what. So, I wanted to not only help address some of these concerns, but also to share the meanings behind the new ward names. Each of the dozen wards are listed below alphabetically, along with their former ward number and their name pronunciation (click to hear the pronunciation), meaning, explanation, and language of origin (as presented by the City). You can also find the boundary maps (click each map for a larger version), the current city councillors, and the candidates running to represent each ward.
If you would like more information on each of the candidates who are running for Mayor and City Council in 2021, click HERE. You can find out what ward you live in by clicking the "FIND YOUR WARD" box below.
(formerly Ward 2)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Inuktun
Meaning of the Name: Breath of life
Explanation of the Name: The Inuit - Inuktitut (ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ) for "the people" - are the northernmost Indigenous people in Canada. Their traditional homeland is known as Inuit Nunangat. In the 1950s and 60s, about one-third of Inuit people were infected with tuberculosis. Most were flown south for treatment in sanitariums like the Charles Camsell Indian Hospital in Edmonton, where they stayed for an average of two and a half years. Those who survived returned home, but many Inuit passed away, often without their families being notified, and were buried in cemeteries in Edmonton, far from their homeland. This ward was given the name Anirniq (ᐊᓂᕐᓂᖅ) which means ‘Breath of Life,’ or spirit. The name was recommended by Inuit Elders because tuberculosis took the breath and spirit of many Indigenous people.
Current Councillor: Bev Esslinger (Ward 2)
2021 Election Candidates: Mark Davies, Bev Esslinger, Ali Haymour, Michelle Henderson, Erin Rutherford, and Tyler Zutz
(formerly Ward 4)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Dene
Meaning of the Name: People of land and water
Explanation of the Name: The word Dene refers to the various tribes and people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, that settled along the North Saskatchewan River and who live there now. Many Dene tribes settled along the shores of the river, including the area where Edmonton now sits. Dene people in Alberta include the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Cold Lake First Nations, and Dene Tha First Nation. Dene people are spread across Canada with the largest concentration of Dene language speakers living in Saskatchewan. Dene languages became one of the official languages of the Northwest Territories in 1990.
Current Councillor: Aaron Paquette (Ward 4)
(formerly Ward 10)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Blackfoot
Meaning of the Name: Traditional lands where the Blackfoot Nation performed Buffalo Rounds. It is known that bison would migrate up to 300 kilometres north of the North Saskatchewan River to the safety of artesian wells to gather for the winter.
Explanation of the Name: Bison were as vital to the Blackfoot people, as to all Indigenous peoples of the plains. The Blackfoot had established words and meanings for their migration patterns, which often coincided with the change of the seasons. In honour of the bison roaming north yearly, this ward was given the name Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi, which means the migration of the bison north for calving season in Blackfoot. The Blackfoot (Nitsitapi) are often associated with Southern Alberta, but their traditional migration patterns often followed the bison up to the North Saskatchewan River. The Blackfoot nations are composed of four separate bands; the Siksika (Blackfoot), the Blood (Kainai), and the north Peigan (Aapátohsipiikani) and the south Peigan (Amskapi Piikani), which make up the Blackfoot Confederacy.
Current Councillor: Michael Walters (Ward 10)
(formerly Ward 11)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Mohawk (Michel First Nation)
Meaning of the Name: A tall, beautiful forest in the Mohawk language. Michel Karhiio was the Chief of the Michel Band that was enfranchised in 1958.
Explanation of the Name: As the fur trade continued its expansion westward, Iroquois men became frequent traders in the NorthWest and Hudson’s Bay Companies. These traders married Cree and Métis women along these settlements, and a distinct Band known as Michel First Nation was formed. Karhiio is a word of significant importance to the Michel First Nation; its literal translation is “tall beautiful forest.” The Michel First Nation first settled in the Lac Ste Anne area where a treaty was signed in 1855. The band was involuntarily enfranchised in 1958 and nearly all members of the Michel First Nation lost their Indian Status. In 1985, amendments were made to the Indian Act, restoring the status of 750 Michel Band members, but its members continue to fight for status land recognition.
Current Councillor: Mike Nickel (Ward 11)
(formerly Ward 7)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Michif
Meaning of the Name: Given the history of the area and the use of the Riverlot system in this ward, a Métis name was chosen.
Explanation of the Name: The Métis people originated in the early 1700s when French and Scottish fur traders married Indigenous women, such as the Cree, and Anishinaabe (Ojibway). After a few generations, the descendants of these marriages formed a distinct culture, collective consciousness and nationhood in the northwest. As the fur trade slowed, Métis people developed farms on river lots close to Fort Edmonton. The shape and position of these lots is a reflection of the city’s design. Because of their integral part in the formation of the city, this ward has been given the name Métis to honour a cornerstone in Edmonton’s history.
Current Councillor: Tony Caterina (Ward 7)
Ward Nakota Isga
(formerly Ward 1)
Pronunciation: NA-KOH-TAH EE-SKA
Indigenous Language of Origin: Sioux
Meaning of the Name: The people
Explanation of the Name: In 1880, the Alexis Nakota Sioux (Nakota Isga or Stoney in English) people took reserve (No. 133) at the shore of Lake Wakamne after signing an adhesion to Treaty Six. They established themselves along the Saskatchewan and Athabasca rivers, setting up fur trading posts along the way. The Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is the furthest northwestern representative of the Siouan language family. While this group mingled with neighbouring Cree nations for centuries, it managed to maintain a unique cultural identity as a Nakota nation. In 1995, Alexis Treaty Land Entitlement led to the establishment of Alexis' Whitecourt (No. 232), Elk River (No. 233) and Cardinal River (No. 234) reserves. To this day, many Alexis people use the name Isga to refer to themselves.
Current Councillor: Andrew Knack (Ward 1)
(formerly Ward 6)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Anishinaabe
Meaning of the Name: Strawberry or heart-berry (The heart through which the North Saskatchewan River runs).
Explanation of the Name: O-day’min, the strawberry, or heart berry, represents the heart of Edmonton, amiskwaciwâskahikan. The stem of the heart represents the North Saskatchewan River, the vessels are the waterways, while the veins make up the blood (people). The roots (veins) of the strawberry represent the different cultures that now make up the city. The O-day’min is a traditional medicine that guided the Anishinaabe (people with the shared culture and language of the Algonquian tribes) understanding of the deep connection between mind, body, spirit and emotions. Anishinaabe peoples are found across Canada, and in Alberta have been referred to as the Saulteaux. The O’Chiese First Nation near Rocky Mountain House is home to Anishinaabe peoples.
Current Councillor: Scott McKeen (Ward 6)
(formerly Ward 8)
Indigenous Language of Origin: papaschase
Meaning of the Name: papastew was a highly respected leader of the papaschase Band #136 and signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 in 1877. papastew translates to large woodpecker.
Explanation of the Name: papastew, also known as Papaschase, was the respected leader of the Papaschase Band, which resided in the Edmonton area in the late 1800s. The Chief’s name translates to large woodpecker in English. When land was surveyed for the Papaschase Band in 1880 south of the North Saskatchewan River, they were given a 40-square-mile plot, too small to meet the needs of their 249 members. The local Indian Agent then arbitrarily transferred people off the band list. Additionally, local settlers didn't want the community too close and petitioned the federal government to eventually force the band into complete surrender. Facing starvation, the breakup of their community, and pressure from local settlers, a small number of the remaining members eventually surrendered their land. Surviving members of the Papaschase Band are working to reclaim their community and land in the area.
Current Councillor: Ben Henderson (Ward 8)
(formerly Ward 9)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Cree
Meaning of the Name: Pays respect to the Thunderbird. This ward, from an aerial view, is shaped like a pihêsiw (thunderbird) and contains a ceremonial site.
Explanation of the Name: The name pihêsiwin means Land of the Thunderbirds and was given to this ward because from an aerial view it is shaped like a pihêsiw (thunderbird). The thunderbird appears in artwork throughout Indigenous history and has different significance between cultures. In nêhiyawewin (Cree ontology), pihêsiw is a word of power and reverence. The thunderbird is a powerful spirit in the form of a bird. Lightning was believed to flash from its beak, and the beating of its wings was thought to represent the rolling of thunder. When the thunderbird strikes lightning (kakitoht), it re-energizes mother Earth. The pihêsiw is the keeper of water. As water is crucial for life, the nourishment of our bodies, and the bringer of beauty, the thunderbird is viewed with extreme reverence.
Current Councillor: Tim Cartmell (Ward 9)
2021 Election Candidates: Guiscela Perez Arellano and Tim Cartmell
(formerly Ward 5)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Enoch Cree
Meaning of the Name: References the people of the Enoch Cree Nation being River Cree.
Explanation of the Name: Because of their proximity to the North Saskatchewan River, Enoch Cree Nation members were known as the River Cree to other tribes, or in the Cree language, sipiwiyiniwak. In the 1800s, the Enoch Cree Nation was an area of 44 square miles that stretched from north of Big Island to present day Stony Plain Road. In 1884, Chief Enoch Lapotac signed an Adhesion to Treaty 6, but involuntary land surrenders caused the loss of over half of Enoch land. The Enoch First Nation, and its more than 2,500 members, is situated on Treaty 6 Territory in central Alberta, bordering the west side of the city of Edmonton. They continue to fight for their land rights today.
Current Councillor: Sarah Hamilton (Ward 5)
(formerly Ward 12)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Blackfoot
Meaning of the Name: Sspomitapi means star person and was given in honour of the Iron Creek Meteorite or the Manitou Stone.
Explanation of the Name: Like other Indigenous nations, the Blackfoot have many stories that acknowledge the sky and the stars, often referred to as Sky Beings. In relation to the name of Ssopmitapi (Star Person), they were sent to earth by Napi (Creator) to help the Blackfoot people and the bison to have a reciprocal relationship. Sspomitapi was given in honour of the Iron Creek Meteorite or the Manitou Stone once located near Viking, Alberta. The stone was shared by all tribes and was a place the Blackfoot would travel to and perform ceremony. The stone was taken to Ontario in the 1800s by missionaries, but was returned to Alberta in the 1970s and is now in the Royal Alberta Museum. As well as Sspomitapi, the teachings of this fallen star have given gifts to the Blackfoot people that are still relevant.
Current Councillor: Moe Banga (Ward 12)
Ward tastawiyiniwak (ᑕᐢᑕᐃᐧᔨᓂᐊᐧᐠ)
(formerly Ward 3)
Indigenous Language of Origin: Cree
Meaning of the Name: The in-between people
Explanation of the Name: The name tastawiyiniwak, is the nêhiyawak (Cree) term referring to the LGBTQ2S+ community. Its rough English translation is “in-between people.” The Cree heritage does not have a binary view of gender, or of traditional gender roles. In fact, the Cree worldview recognized eight genders, and each had their own role to play in the betterment of their community. The Cree believe all people are unified by a single ahcahk (spirit). Each individual could choose where they belonged, what responsibilities they bore to their community, and were free to move between roles as they wished. This is the origin of the term tastawiyiniwak, or "in-between people." The tastawiyiniwak ward name calls for a more equal future for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Current Councillor: Jon Dziadyk (Ward 3)
Here is a map of the City of Edmonton:
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Edmonton's Indigenous Ward Naming Committee: